City of Wenatchee Appeals to Chelan County Superior Court Regarding the Grace City Church Noise Ordinance Issue
The legal battle between the City of Wenatchee and Grace City Church has led the city to appeal to the Chelan County Superior Court, claiming that the Chelan County District Court infringed upon their right to due process.
This case began on Feb. 27th when a resident called RiverCom, reporting loud music and thumping coming from Grace City Church (GCC). The reporting officer was Wenatchee Police officer Jeff Ward, who reports that he did not hear any loud music when he investigated the complaint.
In the City of Wenatchee’s Appellate brief on the matter, they state that there have already been six other noise complaints lodged against Grace City Church.
Residents reported that the sound was higher than 55 decibels, reaching up to 74 decibels at times. Reports dated all the way back to May 9, 2021.
In the brief, they also mention that one of the calls reported that an off-duty officer “recommended letting callers know that the fireworks would be over soon,” rather than citing GCC noise violations.
It was then that the city filed a public nuisance citation against GCC, stating that they violated city code. GCC Executive Pastor of Finances Kyle Strong filed a written response contesting the citation.
Strong had included a written response from GCC staff member Justin Kissel, who worked as a Wenatchee police officer for two decades before leaving in Dec. 2021, to take up a security position at GCC.
Kissel claims that the noise complaints were not valid since the reporting officer did not have confirmation by a second officer.
In the response, Kissel admits he was onsite during the May 9th noise complaint event, but was off-duty during that event.
He also claims that the reporters were upset with the church itself rather than the noise, and that “a very small minority have been opposing the church since we purchased the property in 2015.”
Kissel later claimed that the callers worked together to call in multiple noise complaints and that he was never contacted by WPD.
Below this response, GCC pastor Chris Speten claims that city clerk Tammy Stanger told him that there was no such thing as a noise permit. He also states that their fireworks team had a permit to launch fireworks.
On April 26, 2022, after receiving these statements, Judge Pro Tempore Jon Volyn dismissed the case. His reasoning was that the city did not bring sufficient evidence that there was a noise disturbance.
The City of Wenatchee appealed on May 25th to the Chelan County Superior Court, arguing that the Chelan County District Court infringed upon the city’s right to due process when the court dismissed the case after reading GCC’s written statements, rather than with an extensive hearing.
Attorney John Brangwin reiterates that Volyn has no affiliation or ties with Grace City Church. Volyn is running for Chelan County District Judge in the November midterm election.
Wenatchee Police Department, Grace City Church, and the City of Wenatchee Attorney’s office were unavailable for comment.